Monday, December 13, 2010

On Religion & Separation Anxiety

I have a separation of religion and politics rule when it comes to my beliefs or lack thereof. I prefer not to put my cards on the table and I'm quite happy if people assume I'm a Godless heathen. Jimmy Carter, the conservative anti-Christ,  taught me that.

I remember watching Carter talking about his faith during the height of the 'Bush theocracy'. The interviewer asked him if he, like Bush, had looked to God for guidance when he was president. Nope said Carter. Even though he was a Christian, he said he never let religion inform his decisions as president. Why? Because he would have made himself a leader who could not be argued with, an ayatollah representing "the inviolable word of God" who could never have let things like compromise, pragmatism or admitting he was wrong get in the way. For Carter, religion and politics was a dangerous mix to be avoided. And if that's good enough for the 39th president of the USA, that's good enough for me.

But for conservatives? Hell, short-circuiting democracy with religion has been their winning strategy for decades. Basically, you can't disagree with them because they're representing God's law and He's never wrong... for Republican congressmen, Saudi kings and Taliban Mullahs alike, religion saves a lot of time that would otherwise be wasted on debate.

And they aren't even content co-opting Christianity as is, they go further. Because God doesn't always jibe with their id, they excise large parts of the Bible and retool many of Christ's most basic teachings to fit with those of the true prophets: Ayn Rand and William F. Buckley. Like with charity. Here's Bill O'Reilly's typically conservative take on that:

"[B]eing a Christian, I know that while Jesus promoted charity at the highest level, he was not self-destructive. The Lord helps those who help themselves. Does he not?"

Errm... no. While the Old Testament was all about punishment, revenge, explosions... basically God played by Chuck Norris, the NT is entirely more troublesome for conservatives. Christ is all about teaching unselfish, unconditional love for humanity by example -- even to the extent of getting himself crucified for our sins as an unequivocal statement of principle. At least you'd think it would be unequivocal... Wouldn't you Bill? What more could a guy do to get his point across..?

It's always amazing to think the same teachings that inspire people to renounce materialism and devote their lives to helping the poor supposedly inspire conservatives like Bill O'Reilly too. How does this work? In O'Reilly world, Mother Theresa would probably have toured the slums of Calcutta in a Mercedes yelling at the poor to get off their lazy asses and get jobs. Albert Schweitzer would have been demanding market-appropriate co-pays from African lepers and Christ himself would have rain-checked the last supper because he "was not self-destructive".

Like Gingrich, Beck and Palin, Bill O'Reilly proves the rule: the louder someone yells about being a Christian, the less they really seem to have a clue what one is. And for that, if nothing else, I'm quite happy for conservatives to assume I'm an atheist because I'd sure as hell never be their kind of Christian.


1 comment:

  1. Great post. This has been bothering me ever since I was a teenager. How could someone read the NT and with a straight face say that if Jesus was around today, he would be a conservative?


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